The Truth, Mainly - 03/23/1992

Military prepares one for important issues
by Leon Satterfield

It's always been hard for me, modest rascal that I am, to talk about my military experience. When the subject comes up, I usually duck my head, pinch the bridge of my nose, squinch up my eyes, quiver my chin, and say I don't think I can talk about it just yet. Most people assume then that I've been through something so awful I'm on the verge of terminal twitchiness and they let the subject drop.

My wife says I shouldn't mislead people that way. She says I should tell them that I was in the army from 1954 to 1956, after we had stopped fighting in Korea but before they cut off the Korean G.I. Bill. She says I should tell them that I spent most of my military time playing war games with blank ammunition in the pleasant German countryside, and that my greatest peril was forgetting whether it was dangerous to drink beer on top of wine or the other way around. And she says that when I tell people I was in the European Theatre I should say that I mean the Rialto Deutschland just down the street from the Bahnhof in Munich.

None of that sounds very heroic, I know, and you're probably saying it's no wonder I don't like to talk about my military experience. You're probably wondering why I'm talking about it now.

It's because I'm sending out political signals.

We all know what the polls are showing—that there's lots of dissatisfaction with the current presidential candidates, some of it because some of them haven't had the military experience we all know prepares people to handle Really Important Issues.

As uncomfortable as it makes me to blow my own horn, I'd like it known that I have that experience and I'm available. If nominated, I'll run. If elected, I'll serve. The groundswell has to start somewhere.

I'm working out the details now to enlist a cadre of spin doctors, handlers, and inside sources close to the candidate. Once they're on board I'll teach them the campaign motto: "He's never turned down a draft yet." Pretty catchy, don't you think?

My wife is letting her characteristic cynicism outvote the perks of being First Lady.

"What makes you think," she asks, "that being drafted in 1954 and getting promoted to PFC in 1956 even remotely qualifies you to be president in 1992?"

"It's the steel-trap judgment that gets tempered in the crucible of searing military experience," I explain. "We learned to do the right thing without even thinking."

She says we've already had too many presidents who did the right thing without even thinking. She says my only searing military experience was when I got on the wrong train in Munich in 1955 and nearly ended up in Czechoslavakia.

"None of us is perfect," I say. "We have to admit our mistakes before we can get back on the track to greatness."

"But is it too much," she says, "to expect a candidate to know the difference between a track headed for a free market economy and one headed for government control of goods and services? Couldn't that have consequences?"

"I don't think the American voter wants to dwell on the past," I say, "but since you brought it up, I'd remind you that I got off that train at the last stop before the Czech border and made my way back to greatness and the free market economy of a U. S. Army base in Germany. And I showed entrepreneurial resourcefulness by doing it without any foreign currency."

"You didn't have any foreign currency," she says, "because you spent it all in the Hofbrauhaus and got so fuzzy minded you thought beer on top of wine was the safe one. That's why you got on the wrong train in the first place. And I don't think hiding in the toilet every time the train conductor came around for your ticket shows all that much entrepreneurial resourcefulness. It seems sordid to me. The kind of thing a political opponent might bring up in the heat of a campaign."

She's hard to argue with. Hasn't been tempered in the searing crucible of military experience.

"Don't worry about my ability to handle negative campaigning," I say. "You don't spend time in the European Theatre without learning some Realpolitik."

"Oh?" she says. "What movies did you see there? 'Babes in Baden-Baden'? 'Godzilla'? 'Francis in the Navy'? 'Handling Trenchfoot and other Really Important Issues'?"

I duck my head, pinch the bridge of my nose, squinch up my eyes, quiver my chin, and tell her I don't think I can talk about it just yet.


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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